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2017 NFL mock draft: The Ringer offers thoughts on Malik Hooker to 49ers

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A Seahawks fan thinks Malik Hooker can fit the Earl Thomas role in the 49ers new defense.

The past couple weeks has brought a change in the discussion surrounding the San Francisco 49ers and the No. 2 pick. Quarterback remains a talking point, but in a draft that is top-heavy on the defensive side of the ball, more defensive players are being mocked to the 49ers in recent weeks.

Defensive linemen like Jonathan Allen and Solomon Thomas are in the mix. A linebacker like Reuben Foster has been in play. We’ve seen some cornerbacks like Marshon Lattimore. And of course, we have seen safeties like Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams.

The 49ers have safety options, with Jimmie Ward a candidate to move to free safety. However, we don’t quite know what the new regime has in mind for the back end of the defense, and the change to a Seahawks style 4-3 means free safety is a critical position.

We’ve heard a lot about Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams in 2017 NFL mock drafts, but there is a new mock draft that is worth a look. Old friend Danny Kelly, formerly of Field Gulls, put together his first 2017 NFL mock draft for The Ringer. In it, he has Myles Garrett going No. 1 to the Browns, and Malik Hooker going No. 2 to the 49ers. His first quarterback does not come off the board until No. 13 (DeShone Kizer, Arizona Cardinals).

Danny didn’t have space to go into a lot of detail, but hearing from a Seahawks fan about someone to fill an Earl Thomas role seems moderately helpful. Here’s what he had to say.

The Niners are making the switch to the Seahawks-style 4–3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, a former Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley assistant, and the linchpin of that system is a free safety who can shut down the entire middle of the field on his own. (Look at Seattle’s stats last year with Earl Thomas and without him.) Former safety John Lynch nabs Hooker with his first pick as a GM, locking in a playmaking ballhawk to do just that. Hooker is like Garrett in reverse: He’ll give San Francisco the opportunity to play eight in the box and stop the run without sacrificing the ability to cover on the back end.

We know the team has complimented Jimmie Ward, but until we see who ends up where on the field, we just don’t know where he will end up. Drafting Malik Hooker would certainly answer that question in a big way.